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Cervical Dysplasia (cont.)

Cervical Dysplasia Causes

Cervical dysplasia is caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common infection that is transmitted through sexual contact. In fact, over 75% of sexually active women are thought to become infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Most new HPV infections occur in young (ages 15-25) women. Most HPV infections do not produce any symptoms and resolve spontaneously.

Some HPV infections persist over time rather than resolve, although the reason why this happens is not clear. Persistent HPV infection may lead to the development of genital warts, precancerous changes (cervical dysplasia) of the uterine cervix, as well as cervical cancer. Since not all women who have HPV infection develop cancer, additional factors must also be important in the cause of cervical dysplasia and cancer.

Certain HPV types typically cause genital warts or mild dysplasia ("low-risk" types; HPV-6, HPV-11), while other types (known as "high-risk" HPV types) are more strongly associated with severe dysplasia and cervical cancer (HPV-16, HPV-18).

Since HPV infections are transmitted primarily by sexual contact, the risk of infection increases with the number of sexual partners as person has. Cigarette smoking and suppression of the immune system (such as with HIV infection) are also known to increase the risk for HPV-induced dysplasia and cancer.

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